Lightheart Gear has started making Polartec Alpha Direct hoodies that are great for hiking, backpacking, and lounging around at home. There’s an incredible demand for hoodies made with fleecy and warm Polartec Alpha Direct because it is such a good insulator and because it’s so much lighter weight (roughly 50% lighter) and compressible than other forms of fleece used in hoodies and pullovers.
Specs at a Glance
- Weight: 6.4 oz (XL)
- Gender: Men’s (Women’s sizes also available)
- Kangaroo pocket: Yes
- Hood: Yes
- Wrist Cuffs: Yes
- Thumbholes: Yes
Lightheart sells two styles of Alpha Direct Hoodies, one with and without a front kangaroo (handwarmer) pocket, in both men’s and women’s sizes. The kangaroo pocket is especially nice for hanging out in camp at night if your hands get cold easily and to prevent insects from chomping on them, not to mention that it provides a temporary holding place when you need to use your hands for something else.
Lightheart’s Alpha Direct hoodies are made with 90-weight Apha Direct, which is a good weight for 3-season hiking and as an added thermal adjunct for your sleep system. Alpha Direct is the second generation of Polartec Alpha, which was originally created for use inside jackets. Alpha Direct is slightly more durable than the original Polartec Alpha and contains Alpha fibers attached to a mesh core, making it more suitable for standalone use and direct skin contact without a lining fabric.
There are a few things I really like about this Lightheart Alpha Direct Hoodie. The wrist cuffs have thumb holes in them and the fabric is doubled over for extra durability and warmth. When you put your thumbs in the thumb holes, the Alpha Direct fabric is pulled up over the back of your hand all the way to the base of your fingers which is nice on cold mornings if you don’t carry gloves. They also make it easier to pull on a jacket over the hoodie with thew the sleeves bunching up. The doubled wrist fabric is also a welcome design feature since the wrists and end of the sleeves take so much abuse and abrasion, not to mention the extra warmth and wind resistance it provides.
The hood has an elastic cord running around the front and a cord lock so can tightly cinch the opening for more warmth and even raise it above your mouth. The neck is also cut high like a turtleneck to maximize warmth since so much blood passes near the skin on the neck on its way to your brain and back.
Fit and Sizing
The sewing is very neat and the seams are tight and I can’t feel them against my skin. But the sizing runs distinctly large in the chest and a bit long, so the hoodie sticks out under waist-length rain jackets and wind shirts, which isn’t optimal. For example, the hoodie fits fine with my Montbell Versalite Rain Jacket below, which reaches my upper hips but is too long when worn with my Enlightened Equipment Copperfield Wind Jacket or my Warbonnet Stash Rain Jacket. I think a shorter waist-length model would be preferable for maximum compatibility with windproof layers.
Alpha Direct Limitations
For all of its benefits, Alpha Direct does have some limitations, like all hiking clothing, that are important to know about.
- The fabric is very loosely woven and is easily torn if it gets snagged, especially if it comes in contact with velcro, which many gear manufacturers use on rain jackets along the zippers or wrist cuffs, tent doors, and at the top of backpacks.
- Despite its warmth, Alpha Direct has very low wind resistance unlike heavier forms of fleece, so it’s best used under a wind shirt or rain jacket in cold and windy conditions. This can make it a little difficult to avoid perspiring when hiking, so you’ll want to use jackets that are good for dumping excess heat with pit zips or torso zips.
- Alpha Direct can absorb a considerable amount of water from wet-out under a rain shell. While Alpha Direct dries very quickly when hung up to dry, it can chill you if it gets saturated under a rain jacket in cool all-day rain where it acts as a cold conductor.
The Lightheart Gear Alpha Direct Hoodie has many fine features to recommend it ranging from a warm hood and durable wrist cuffs to a kangaroo pocket. The sizing tends to run a bit large in the chest and length-wise down the hip, so care should be taken when sizing the hoodie if you want one that is suitable for layering under a wind shirt or rain shell. The advantage of an Alpha Direct Hoodie over other types of fleece is that it is much lighter weight in terms of warmth and much more compressible. Despite the length challenges with my hoodie, I still wear it almost every day and it’s a really nice layer to sleep in for added warmth. Alpha Direct does have some limitations as noted above, but it is a marvelous layer for 3-season hiking and backpacking in mountainous terrain where more nuanced thermoregulation is an asset.
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